• Export Essentials

If compliance is exciting you’re doing it wrong

Updated: Feb 11, 2019

Every so often a business makes the news for breaching standards or regulations, either here in New Zealand or in overseas markets. It’s a fast way to get brand exposure, usually of the fatal variety.

Several things can happen if you get caught out on compliance in an export market. Depending on the nature of the breach, you might have to deal with product held up or destroyed at the border, and extra red tape for any future shipments you send. Or you might end up facing hundred-thousand dollar fines, lawsuits, or criminal prosecution.

Because most Kiwi exporters start out as relative unknowns in-market and have to build trust and confidence from scratch, the fallout from a single fine or court case can permanently hurt your chances in-market. You might also find sales falling (or doors closing) in other markets or here in New Zealand, right when you can least afford the damage.

In other words, the first step in getting compliance right is to know what’s at stake: all the time and money you’ve spent on exporting, your brand reputation, and maybe your whole business.

The second step is to make a practical plan for getting it sorted, so you don’t get overwhelmed by the task or spend any sleepless nights worrying about what you haven’t covered off.

Building a compliance checklist

For each product or service you’re selling, in each market, build a checklist of all the requirements you’ll need to consider.

You might need to think about:

  • Product standards and regulations – these can include required performance levels, or the use or non-use of certain materials (or ingredients for food products)

  • Packaging – including materials, size, sustainability and recycling

  • Labelling – including naming, contact details, country of origin and other information

  • Import regulations, tariffs and duties

  • Export insurance and documentation

  • Product liability if you’re selling goods, or professional liability for services

  • Trading regulations, including rules around employing staff in the market.

There’s far more to say about each of these areas than we can cover here, so read our full Export Essentials guide to international compliance for more detail.

Selling online isn’t a shortcut around compliance! You’ll still need to meet the same requirements for your product or service, plus having clear terms and conditions, good security for customer data, and appropriate insurance cover.

Once you’ve got your checklist of questions ready, it’s time to go out and find the answers.

Where to go for help

Just like market research (or any other major task in business), it’s helpful to learn as much as you can yourself – but ultimately you’re going to need professional assistance to get compliance right.

There’s just too much to learn alongside all your other business tasks, and the risks of non-compliance are far greater than any saving you’ll get by doing it yourself.

To find the right experts and professionals to advise you, start locally by getting in touch with:

  • other businesses active in the market you’re targeting

  • your industry or trade association, regional economic development agencies or chambers of commerce

  • Standards New Zealand – the body that defines our product standards, and helps keep them in line with international equivalents

  • Government agencies that provide export assurances, such as the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) for food or primary products.

Our Export Essentials guide to international compliance includes some key New Zealand contacts to kick off your compliance research.

Some compliance requirements are hard to spot from a distance, so you’ll want to ask around in-market too. Get in touch with:

  • in-market industry associations

  • Government websites or compliance organisations

  • importers, agents or distributors

  • New Zealand expat networks such as Kiwi Expats Abroad (KEA).

If you get stuck, reaching out to NZTE in New Zealand gives you a local point of contact as well as a global network for finding answers to compliance questions.

Through these networks, you should be able to get a clear picture of your compliance needs and track down the right experts here or overseas to keep you on track.

What’s next?

You’ll have some things to do as a result of your compliance research.

Be prepared to spend some money on equipment, software or specialist advice, and make sure you factor all of these costs into your export budget and your final pricing for the market.

Spending the time and money to get compliance right can save you from the wrong kinds of excitement in international business – and let you tackle new markets with confidence.

Get the full story and more tips, tools and advice in our Export Essentials guide to international compliance. Or review our full series of guides here.

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